What’s with my daughters?

QUESTION: Masters, for too many years my daughters have stopped talking to me or not keeping in contact with me. I have made mistakes in my life but I don’t think I have done something so terrible that has caused this to happen. I have been a devoted mother, of course, I have made my mistakes in my private life and I believe that this is no reason to stop talking to me and keeping even their children away from me. In the beginning I was very sad and depressed and eventually I had to get used to live that way however I miss them and would like to know the real reason why this happened. ~Cristina, Colombia

ANSWER: With your erratic behavior in the past, your daughters had a period where they feared your actions and the people drawn to your negative energy. Your responses to them were unpredictable and hurtful. They grew concerned that you might affect not only them but also their family and friends in the same manner as you had affected their lives, and that is what has created their standoffishness.

People like to know what to expect in any given situation. A person grows up seeing and expecting various people—such as parents, siblings, officials—to act in a certain way. When one moves outside the normal patterns of interpersonal and societal exchanges, fear develops. It is necessary that you build up a predictable pattern of behavior when it comes to your interactions with your daughters.

Start with a letter of apology for any misunderstanding in the past. Ask what you can do to allow them to have a trusting relationship with you. Suggest that you and they, just your daughters, meet in a neutral place such as a coffee shop or restaurant to re-establish family ties. They will need to see that you are “normal” in the way they expect a mother to be. Do not let them bait you into an argument.

If you truly want to get back into their lives, you must see what they want and try to comply with their wishes—but only if it feels comfortable to you. Do not let them dictate the patterns they want you to follow. If you are unable to reach an accord at this neutral setting meeting, they are not ready to let you back into their lives. You will need to have a little patience. Trust is hard to create.